School Me, Please is the advice column where early career educators can come for individualized guidance from seasoned educators who have a passion for mentoring. Have a problem or question for one of our experts to address on the blog? Send it to us via email at SchoolMePlease@nea.org.
School Me, Please:
I’m in my second year in the classroom and I strongly suspect one of my more introverted students is being bullied during lunch and recess, but they seem too embarrassed to talk to anyone about it. How can I find out what exactly is going on?
-On Bully Watch
Dear On Bully Watch,
Bullying is a difficult issue for educators to deal with and to see our students going through, but we all have the means to handle these situations and provide support for our students. When you suspect bullying is happening, use direct intervention with the student you suspect is being bullied, positive discussions inside the classroom, and your observations outside the classroom to address the situation.
Having a trusting relationship with your students where they feel comfortable coming to you for help is important, and talking to the student one on one about the situation can build that relationship. As you address the issue with your student, be sure to use the resources available to you. For example, if you have a school counselor, involve them in the process and encourage them to work with the student in a small group, and if your school has a program such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), use that framework to guide your intervention. If you feel the issue is having a strong negative impact on the student, bring this to the attention of your administrator and communicate with the child’s parents.
In addition to direct intervention, having discussions about bullying and teaching positive interactions in the classroom can be helpful. Provide some lessons in class on topics like kindness and bucket filling, or read books on the topic. Classroom lessons sometimes elicit children to talk about what they have experienced or observed. Outside the classroom, you can also take some time to be present at recess and lunch to observe, from a distance, the dynamics between students. It may be helpful to bring the issue to the attention of your colleagues. I find that when we all work together on an issue, one of the other teachers may have insight on dynamics I may have missed or advice on how to handle the situation.
Bullying is, unfortunately, a situation that will come up in your school, but working through it with your students, resources, and fellow teachers will allow you to provide a safe and loving environment for all your students.
– Lori Celiz, California